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Why was I arrested for a Tennessee DUI after passing the standard field sobriety tests?

Posted January 24, 2016Lee Martin - DUI Cases

Why was I arrested for a DUI in Nashville after passing the standard field sobriety tests?

This is a question that I encounter at least a few times each week in my Nashville area DUI practice.  It is important to understand that these tests are not graded on a pass fail format.  A seasoned Nashville DUI task force officer will inform the judge and jury that these tasks are not pass fail but only serve as a means to look for clues of impairment and they based their decision to arrest based upon the totality of circumstances.  The Tennessee Supreme Court in a recent case said that even if the motorist passes the field sobriety tests, they can still be arrested for a DUI under Tennessee’s DUI laws.

Why would anyone agree to take these tests?

In light to the Tennessee Supreme Court case, why would anyone agree to take these voluntary tests? You have no legal obligation to take the field sobriety tasks and the officer cannot make you perform them. I would argue that in many instances the decision to arrest for DUI has already been made prior to the administration of the tests.  The performance of these tests is only being offered in order to make a DUI case against you.  When used as evidence, the field tests make the arrest sound scientific and official.  With this in mind, there is not a legal requirement to do the tests in the first place and I cannot think of a good reason to perform the roadside gymnastics.  The decision to arrest has most likely already been make and the field tests are only a ruse.  There is simply no upside in cooperating and performing the tests.  Remember, the courts have already said that the officer can arrest for DUI even when the accused passes the roadside dance.

What are the standard field sobriety tests?

The federal government has done extensive testing in order to determine what field sobriety tests should be used.  They arrived at a decision to sanction three standard field sobriety tests.  These tests consist of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (the eye or pen test), the Walk and Turn test (walk the straight line), and the One Leg Stand (stand on one leg and count to 30).  These are the only three tests sanctioned by the federal government.  If pulled over in Nashville for a DUI, these are the tests most likely offered to you.  Occasionally, I may see a non-standard DUI test given.

A seasoned DUI defense attorney will never let these tests get in the way of mounting an effective defense.  These tests are subjective in nature and designed to fail.  Even when administered correctly in a controlled environment, these tests are only accurate between 65 to 77 percent of the time.  The standard field sobriety tests are not perfect indicators of impairment.  A skilled DUI defense attorney will be able to show these short comings to the court or jury.  If you have been arrested for DUI, do not give up simply because the arresting officer said you failed the field sobriety tests.  Remember, they are subjective in nature and designed for you to fail.

To learn more about Nashville DUI defense, I encourage you to watch the videos on my home page and read my blog posts.  If you have questions regarding a pending DUI charge in Nashville or the surrounding counties, please give me a call at 615-345-1988.  You have nothing to lose.  One call could make all the difference in the world.

I help good people restore their lives

-Lee Martin is a nationally recognized DUI and criminal defense attorney.  He provides premier legal services by limiting his caseload exclusively to DUI and criminal matters.  Lee knows how to build a solid defense strategy for your upcoming court date.  Let Lee Martin be your choose as your Nashville area DUI and criminal defense lawyer.   If you have pending DUI charges, give him a call at 615-345-1988.

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